I already started working on sculptures before I joined the Stars Group. I was self-taught. I didn’t have any friends or teaches, so I was really working on my own. After joining the Stars Group, all of us organised the exhibitions together. These exhibitions were non-official and provocative, which greatly inspired my own artistic practice. Through those exhibitions, I was in contact with many artists, the general public and foreigners. Previously I didn’t really know whether my works were good or not, then I learnt form the others that my works were quite good.
How has your work evolved since you left the Stars Group?
Many artists changed their artistic practices or styles after they left the Stars Group. After I left China, I also suspected whether my artistic practice was going in the right direction. I was not familiar with the art world trends at that time. After I went to many museums, and became more confident in my work. Many Chinese artists went to those museums and felt discouraged. Looking at the masterpieces, they felt that many of the visual presentations were done before, and so it was meaningless to make the same thing again. On the contrary, after visiting the major museums and seeing these masterpieces, my confidence grew. I think that my work is different from all the others. I think that the most important thing for an artist is their originality. I am increasingly convinced that my works are original and with great personality.
Do you think that your work has become less politicalised after you left the Stars Group in 1983?
I produced many works before and after the Stars Group, and political works were only a small part of it. But the society reacted to these political works, and media attention. These works had a greater impact to the society, so everyone was talking about it. For example, in the newspaper they mentioned those works – “Silence” and “Idol”. In fact, I also produced other kinds of work. I thought about what I wanted to work on. For me, I wanted to work on whatever that was not allowed to, such as political works that was prohibited, and a very dangerous subject. There were many things that others were afraid to talk about, so I had to speak up. Also the subject of human bodies, like the female bodies. At that time, it was considered as pornography, and so prohibited as well. I did that as well. And abstract, because it originated from the West, so that was not allowed as well. At that time, I worked on all these subjects.
How has your work changed after you left China for France?
After I left China, it was not that I didn’t want to work on political works, but my immediate surroundings had changed. I was no longer able to produce political works, because I didn’t have any feelings about that subject. I followed though my style and focused on the human bodies, towards that direction. I think what I was looking for are more simple and natural things. My style has been consistent and I followed through with it.
How was Chinese art perceived in the West when you first arrived in Paris?
At the time, China just opened up to the world, so there was a lot of interest from the West, especially on contemporary Chinese art. But many in the West knew very little about the history and development of contemporary art. They preferred works that tell a story, or contain Chinese symbols, or other Chinese characteristics. So many artists changed their styles, including Chinese elements or symbols in their works. It took no time for the Western audience to become familiar with Chinese art. But I didn’t want to go towards that direction. I had greater aspirations. I think that I am a Chinese artist, but I don’t produce “contemporary Chinese art”. I think that I am a Chinese artist, but I don’t produce “contemporary Chinese art”. I make my own art. Therefore my works were not included in many of the exhibitions on contemporary Chinese art. I don’t belong to contemporary Chinese art. I am myself. I know what quality of works I am making.